Green Exercise? Yes, Please!

View from O’Leary Peak trail, Northern Arizona

According to an article from Woodland Trust, the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK,  Exercise . . . releases endorphins, improves both physical and mental health and helps you sleep better. . . But did you know that where you exercise can make a real difference?  Exercising outdoors in a green space, studies show, results not only in profound benefits for physical health, but can also boost mental health in as little as 5 minutes.  Five minutes!

The term green exercise was coined in a paper from 2003 by researchers at University of Essex.  Their writings include an idea set forth by the American Biologist E. O. Wilson, called the Darwin of the 21st century, that humans have an innate connection with Nature, and therefore, time outdoors increases well-being in general and can even be transformative.  Coupling that with the merits of exercise, this paper was the first to address body movement in the great outdoors, declaring it doubly beneficial.

Peeking through a rock at the water’s edge, Southern California

I prefer exercising outside whenever possible, probably because I so enjoy being near plants, natural waters, wildlife, and looking at the sky.  Hiking and trail riding are activities that we enjoy on a regular basis.  If I must exercise inside, I make sure there’s a view and fresh air if possible.  When I belonged to a regular gym, I would focus on the trees outside the window while lifting or on the treadmill.  At my climbing gym, all the doors are propped open to allow the wind to blow through.  In our home workout room, I like to open the window and watch the birds while I’m on the boxing bag or glider.  Yoga is best practiced, in my opinion, with an outside view.  In fact, many classes are now offered in park settings.  I used to attend classes at a studio with windows revealing a direct view of the San Francisco Peaks, Arizona’s tallest mountains.  On snow days, it was particularly lovely and inspiring. 

Beautifully flowered rock found on a high desert hike

An article entitled The Great Outdoors: How a Green Exercise Environment Can Benefit All from the National Institute of Health states we may be still genetically designed to be hunter-gatherers in the great outdoors, (but) we are not being stimulated physically or mentally in the same way and this may be detrimental to health . . . maybe green exercise should be used to facilitate physical activity to improve health.  Going to the farmer’s market just doesn’t do it!  The article goes on to say that, owing to various factors, outdoor exercise can be perceived as less demanding.  (Maybe that’s another reason I prefer it?!)

Hiking Trail near Flagstaff, Arizona

Although there aren’t a great number of studies on green exercise, the research that has been done shows it yields many benefits physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  Alive, a leader in natural health publishing for almost 50 years, shared a write-up encouraging outdoor exercise due to its ability to reduce stress and confusion; improve self-esteem, mood, and focus; and offer better recovery from training.  It can also reduce behavioral problems, especially in children. Plus, limited sun exposure enhances vitamin D levels, which can help us avoid cancers and heart disease.  And, bonus, due to outside sights and sounds being more interesting, green exercise increases the chances that we will stick to our exercise routine.  When you find you’re short on motivation, this might be the perfect fix.

A walk along the dog beach in South Florida

I’ve shared in past posts some of the many benefits we derive from simply being among trees, wildflowers, near waterfalls, and at the beach.  (Check out my Categories link for more.) Incorporate those benefits with the value of physical activity and you have a combination that’s hard to beat.  Not to mention, being outside makes exercise so much more fun!

A stroll near Moab, Utah

The many advantages of green exercise, even if limited to only 5 minutes at a time, shows a great deal of promise for improving our lives.  You are intimately connected to Nature; being active in this nurturing environment is a practice from the distant past that can easily transform your future.

Green Space Blessings,

Lisa

79 thoughts on “Green Exercise? Yes, Please!

  1. This is so true, Lisa, and even if we don’t pay attention to the science, exercising out-of-doors feels right! After many years, I have started doing Qi Gong again by following an online course which is great. I practice in the early morning sometime between 6.00 and 7.00. Unfortunately, lately, our mornings have been very wet, but when it’s dry I’m in my tiny garden listening to the birds. It is always joyful and uplifting. Have a great weekend 🙏

    Liked by 3 people

  2. So true Lisa. Unfortunately the covid situation is not very good in my place right now (though improving slightly) and my outdoor walks and cycling are currently stopped,. And walking with masks is not fun anyway, all that fresh air missed! For now I have taken my exercise to the open roof garden, to manage to have open air and plants around me. But nothing like the open trails and roads.
    And the pictures you put in your post are so refreshing and relaxing as usual 🌄

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Deb! Good to see you! Glad you enjoyed the post. I’m happy to hear you’re able to go to a roof garden at this trying time. My hope is that you’ll be able to return to your normal routine sooner than later. Continue staying safe, my friend. 🌞

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  3. I love being outside as you know and when I exercise indoors I always like to look outside if possible. When we belonged to a gym, the treadmills had screens where you could “walk” along various outdoor walks in different countries. That was also fun.

    janet

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi, Janet, thanks for chiming in! The treadmills you describe sound interesting. Hopefully you have a cool spot near your home to enjoy during the summer months. I realize many people just stay inside in the a/c when it gets too hot, but I don’t believe you are one of them! Have a great weekend, my friend! 🌞

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I didn’t know that exercising outside could be so beneficial. I guess that I was always scared to try it because strangers could walk past and look at me stretching which might be a little awkward. I could try making sure that there is a breeze or a view of the outside when I exercise though – like you suggested. And I always do my wheelchair laps outside and I love how those feel.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Love it, Lisa. Beautiful pics, and an excellent commentary. I completely agree. Oh, btw, I hiked Silver Falls State Park last weekend. A gorgeous 8 mile hike. I’ll have a post about it in a week or so. Have a lovely weekend!! 😊☀️🌴🌳

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I think it will also be beneficial when you put all your beautiful photo’s inside your workout room – that will give a great ‘outdoor feel’ 😉.
    I love going outdoor for a stroll or a hike – the fresh air and lovely smells (especially when walking in a forest) definitely have its benefits … oh yes, and sometimes I meet someone on the road and have a nice chat.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I totally agree Lisa!!!! Going green is the best way to exercise and great info backing it up!!!! so much to be found in nature to heal us! When I can take people out,… out we go!! Beauuuuutiful like you!💖💖

    Liked by 1 person

  8. It is really great to be able to get out and back to normal again. I love your beautiful Photos! Getting out into fresh air and exercising is the best there is for good health.
    A great post!
    Dwight

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I love to walk or cycle in the fresh air. Even if it is raining, I need to be outside everyday. I’m lucky to live in the countryside with plenty of woodland. I think one cannot underestimate the importance of green exercise. Great post, Lisa!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Nice: “Green exercise”! I never heard of this before, but it makes sense. The sun on our skin, the fresh air, the beauty of nature. All these things are important and what we’ve been used to from the beginning. Love how you bring in ideas from everywhere to help us think about taking care of our bodies mentally, physically, emotionally, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. If it wasn’t for “Green Exercise”, I wouldn’t get any exercise at all! I LOVE taking walks on the trails along beautiful Lake Guntersville! When visiting “sis” in DC, I enjoy the trails along the Potomac! There’s something about “sunshine and blue skies” that bring a new energy to me!

    Liked by 1 person

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